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NCAA Fines and Penalties Will Have Lasting Impact on Penn State Football Program

July 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
The NCAA imposed a $60 million sanction on Pennsylvania State University for perpetuating a 'football first' culture that failed to stop one ex-coach's sexual abuse of children. Ray Suarez speaks with University of Maryland's Kevin Blackistone and University of Pennsylania's Scott Rosner about the future for Penn State football.
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TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Penn State was hit with some of the toughest penalties in decades today for its role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It’s a decision that could affect the university and its storied sports program for years.

Ray Suarez has the story.

MARK EMMERT, NCAA: Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.

RAY SUAREZ: With that, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced sweeping sanctions that all but leveled Penn State’s football program for failing to stop a pedophile ex-coach.

Among the measures, a $60 million fine, equivalent to one year’s revenue from the football program and a four-year ban on bowl games, plus five years’ probation.

In addition, the school will forfeit $13 million in bowl revenues earned by other members of the Big Ten Conference. Penn State will also be cut from 85 scholarship players to 65 for four years. And the sanctions will cancel 112 wins going back to 1998. That’s allegedly when a cover-up of the scandal began.

NCAA president Emmert spoke today in Indianapolis.

MARK EMMERT: No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims. However, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.

RAY SUAREZ: Last month, the 68-year-old Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, sometimes on university grounds. The NCAA based its decision on findings commissioned by Penn State and released by former FBI Director Louis Freeh earlier this month.

The scathing report charged that legendary coach Joe Paterno, university president Graham Spanier and other top school officials concealed what they knew about Sandusky to protect the football program’s reputation. Coach Paterno was fired last fall and died of lung cancer in January.

The penalties mean he’ll no longer be recognized as the winningest coach ever in major college football. Early Sunday, construction workers removed his bronze statue from in front of Beaver Stadium in State College, drawing a divided response.

WOMAN: Even though he made mistakes, and so did the rest of the administration, we still need to remember him the right way.

MAN: If he had stood up and said, my assistant coach is a pedophile, he shouldn’t be in the program, he should be turned over to the authorities, he would have come out a hero.

RAY SUAREZ: This morning, students and others gathered to find out whether the football program would be abolished outright. The last team to receive the NCAA’s so-called death penalty was Southernf Methodist University in 1986.

But, in the end, Emmert said it wasn’t the right punishment for Penn State

MARK EMMERT: We concluded that the sanctions needed to reflect are goals of driving cultural change, as much as apply punitive actions. Suspension of the football program would bring with it significant unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with this case.

RAY SUAREZ: In competing statements today, the Paterno family called the sanctions a panicked response, but Penn State president Rodney Erickson accepted the penalties. He said, with the announcement, the university takes a significant step forward.

We take a closer look at the sanctions levied by the NCAA against Penn State now with Kevin Blackistone, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland and a commentator on ESPN, and Scott Rosner, associate director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania Business School.

Professor Blackistone, the NCAA called its decision a mix of corrective and punitive measures. Did they get it right?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE, University of Maryland: I don’t know that they got it all right.

You know, I much would have preferred to hear today that Mark Emmert and his executive committee weren’t making a unilateral decision, and instead were taking a more sweeping move and not only fining the university, but also suspending its membership and forcing a vote by the entire convention of the NCAA in January, and also forcing Penn State to come forward even more publicly before all of its members and make a plea for its case to remain.

I think that would have spoken more to the cultural change that Mark Emmert spoke of in terms of athletics overriding — athletics — and how he wanted to see that reversed. This way, I think it’s still a little bit too myopic for my taste.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Rosner, what do you make of the decision?

SCOTT ROSNER, University of Pennsylvania: I think it was a swift and appropriate response by the NCAA, which as I think everyone who follows the sports industry is well aware of, whether fan or insider, is often and fairly criticized.

This is by many, including myself, I think this is one where they came as close as you can to getting it right, given the circumstances.

RAY SUAREZ: But in this case, Professor, the NCAA moved fast every than it normally does. It decided to forgo a long investigative process and basically went on the strength of the Freeh report. Why was it necessary to do that?

SCOTT ROSNER: Well, I think it’s correct in this situation to at least look at the much different circumstances than what is typically faced.

There was no real question as to any allegations of fact contained in the Freeh report, that Penn State had accepted that as being the truth and decided not to challenge that, and given that and the fact that the NCAA is not a legal body, they don’t have any subpoena power, and oftentimes do rely on testimony and internal investigations that yield these kinds of findings.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Blackistone, you talked about Penn State having to defend its right to play football. But did the punishment fit the crime? Does it actually hurt those who committed the offenses in this point?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Well, I think those who committed the offenses, as far as we know, have already been hurt by this. I mean, Jerry Sandusky is in jail, convicted on 45 counts of child molestation and awaiting sentencing that can — that carries a minimum of 60 years in prison.

And we have some others who are due to show up in court. So, I think a lot of that has been done. But I’m just — I’m just still concerned that this message is not going to get through. I mean, you know, one of the things that we didn’t hear yesterday — today that we thought we might hear was that this team was going to be taken off of television.

But, apparently, that was going to affect the television contracts that are already in place and affect the money flow and the income and the revenue and all of that. And, so, we didn’t hear about that. And those are some areas that I just think the NCAA came up a little bit short on.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Rosner, not taken off television, but also not allowed to escape with their business model intact either, are they?

SCOTT ROSNER: No, this is going to have a dramatic impact on the business of Penn State football, when you look at it as an individual sport, the athletic department as a whole, and indeed I think across the entire university.

When you look at the impact it’s going to have on gate receipts, it will be — that will probably be the least impacted area, but certainly you could expect to see a decline in gate receipts as the performance of the team, as expected — as they are expected to, declines over time. I think you will see sponsorship certainly be impacted by this and those dollars as the number of companies seek to remove themselves from the taint associated with the program.

And I think, to a certain degree, fund-raising to the athletic department itself can be negatively impacted, as those who would typically give to Penn State and indeed did give to Penn State over the past year, according to Penn State’s own study and own research, I think there’s going to be a pullback, and again as team performance decreases.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Blackistone, explain how this particular set of sanctions on the way the program operates, on recruiting, on scholarships, on the money flow, percolates through a program.

You have, whatever, some 85 young men who are going to show up in the fall and practice and start to play.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Right.

RAY SUAREZ: The countdown is even on the Penn State website, 38 days until they start to play.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Right. Right.

Well, you know, it affects it in a lot of ways. But for the future going forward, one of the heaviest penalties they have got is the fact that they’re going to lose 20 scholarships each year for the next four years. It is going to be very difficult for Penn State to field the type of football team that Penn State fans and alums have come to expect during Joe Paterno’s reign.

They’re also going to lose some other initial scholarships. They won’t be able to share in the revenue from the bowl games. They won’t be able to appear in any bowl games. And the 85 guys who are on the team now all have an opportunity immediately to depart this program and find another one to play in, if playing for big bowl stakes is that important to them.

So, the football team certainly for the next half-decade is going to take a pretty major hit in terms of its ability to perform at a really high level.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Rosner, given what Professor Blackistone just described, are we going to in four years, five years just inevitably see a Penn State where football is less of a factor in the daily life of the college, where it’s less of what the NCAA president called too big to fail, too big to challenge?

SCOTT ROSNER: Well, I think the nature of the sanctions, as Kevin pointed out, is such that, in as — and as many pundits have pointed out today as well, is such that the expected decline in football will lead to in a sense a bit of a culture change.

Students coming to the university won’t expect there to be a winning club put out on the field. They know what they’re getting into. And I think what — it actually could have an impact on enrollment at Penn State outside of — from those coming from outside of the state of Pennsylvania, who otherwise may seek out Penn State because they want to be associated with a school that has a winning football program and the school spirit that goes with that.

RAY SUAREZ: Scott Rosner, Kevin Blackistone, gentlemen, thank you both.

Online, we have posted video from this morning’s NCAA press conference.